Last night, I'm eating some pistachios. I've had a craving for pistachios for weeks, and finally got some at the grocery store last night. With pistachios, you have to be careful, you know, because sometimes, you get a bad nut. Usually, it just tastes "off," or it has a weird color, or it's harder than the other nuts. But last night, I got a nut that was really hard, and seemed to be in two pieces. I was watching TV, mind you, and not inspecting each nut. I spit out the larger, harder piece. Then felt the other piece in my mouth and it felt weird, so I spit that one out. It was a worm. A gross, largish, dead, salty worm.
The worm looked like this: Since it was dead, and since I really like pistachios, and since I didn't actually eat or even bite the worm (just licked the salt off), I looked at the bowl of pistachios for a couple of minutes, then proceded to eat the rest of them, inspecting them a little better this time, and hoping that was the only one.
In doing some research later, I thought it was a waxworm, but looking into it more, I moved to thinking it was a meal worm, because they are more commonly found in cereal and grains. Upon even more research, I determined that it was, in fact, a Navel Orange Worm (larval stage of the Amyelois transitella moth, at right), because they can be a particular problem in almonds and pistachios. Information on this worm is hard to come by, but a thread on a bulletin board apparently for nut lovers confirmed that this does sometimes happen and that it's apparently not harmful to eat them. Furthermore, I was lucky that my worm was dead - a lot of times, they are still alive in there. And people have eaten them alive. Actually, all of these kind of larval worms are considered good protein and not at all harmful to people. They're just a pain if you get a live infestation.
Then, today, I got a call from my Scrapbook Goddess. There was a big recall recently on Peter Pan peanut butter because of the risk of salmonella associated with certain jars. I called her back, she said she had brownies with the offending peanut butter at our recent crop and wanted us to be warned. I hadn't eaten a brownie, but then asked about the peanut butter. Scrapbook Goddess is a wealth of information, so of course she had the information about which peanut butter had been recalled, and of course we had a jar of it in the cupboard - with the evil number "2111" on the lid. Scrapbook Goddess even had the address for ConAgra foods where you could get a refund! She's so good!
After hanging up the phone, I remembered that I was the only person who had eaten out of that jar of peanut butter, and I had, in fact, had diarrhea for a couple of days, with some intense cramping. As I relayed my hysteria to my husband, he said, "Oh come on! You really think that was the cause of your diarrhea? If the sun comes up, you have diarrhea!" I guess he was right, but I do recall thinking I had eaten something bad. When I told my husband about sending the lid in for a refund, he said, "Cool! I get my money back AND I get to eat the peanut butter!" Always thinking of how to save a buck, that guy, even if it means getting sick.
All of this reminded me of a time several years ago when I was a nanny. One day for breakfast I had some cereal. I should have known something was amiss when there was a box of Honey Bunches of Oats in the cupboard amidst the mountain of sugar cereals. I noticed a few web-like things on the shelf, but figured it was just a spider or something. Halfway through the bowl, when you get to the point where there is more milkd left than cereal, I saw these little greenish yellow things floating up. I saw them when I first started eating the cereal, but I had assumed they were like little dried apple slices or something. Well, the floating greenish yellow things were moving. As I looked closer, I realized they were little worms, little larval worms (see photo at left).
I immediately started spitting and gagging into the sink upon realizing that I had probably already eaten a healthy amount of the live worms. After that day, I realized that any healthy cereal in that house with 5 kids would probably have been sitting there for a long time and I only ate sugary cereal from then on.
Since then, I've determined that these worms were another grain moth larva called Indian Meal Moth (see photo of moth at right). Not generally harmful in small amounts unless the infestation is accompanied by fungus, which sometimes does happen.
This website was particularly informative about identifying bugs:
What's That Bug?